Despite evidence that in many countries, socioeconomic disparities in health usually widen during the period of economic recession, this relationship might not hold true in Japan. The speaker and his colleagues identified reversed mortality trends between company managers and workers in lower socioeconomic positions. Managers were more likely to die than blue-collar workers in the period following the recent economic recession. For example, among men, the rate for suicide has rapidly increased since the late 1990s, with the greatest increase among management-level workers. For this group, the suicide rate increased 3.8 times in the decade after 1995 (BMJ 2012;344:e1191). This may be one of the reasons for Japan’s recent decline in the world rankings of longest life expectancies. In this seminar, the speaker will discuss potential causes of these ‘counterfactual’ findings, including Japanese cultural characteristics, employment regulation reforms, excessive job demands for managers, and degraded workplace social capital. The speaker concludes that economic crises might not simply constitute a threat to health equality, but can have a complex impact on various subpopulations regardless of socioeconomic status. The seminar also briefly deals with the results of other studies on the impact of relative deprivation on health in Japan, Sweden, and other countries.

Naoki Kondo is an Associate Professor at the Department of Health and Social Behavior in the School of Public Health at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Dr Kondo’s research interests are the social determinants of health in Asian contexts. He has recently published papers on the dynamics in the association between society and health, for example, macroeconomic fluctuations and health disparities, and intergenerational impacts of socioeconomic status on child health.

The seminar will take place at CHESS, 5th floor, Sveaplan, on Tuesday 11 June at 1.30 pm (pls note date).